“Happy Jack”, as he was known to his mates in the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force), was older than most men who joined the war effort. He was 31 by the time he finished training and graduated as a Pilot Officer late in 1941. He missed out by a couple of days being sent to join the Empire Air Training Scheme in Canada. He was due to leave Australia on 9 December 1941, but Pearl Harbour intervened.
Arthur John Moline, also known as John Moline, was my father.
Dad was a Catalina navigator. Catalinas are often seen as the forgotten aircraft of World War 2. These flying boats carried out important missions from Cairns, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. They reported on and bombed enemy shipping, and rescued downed airmen from the sea.
Dad wrote a vivid description of one of these long sorties. He was a journalist before the war and this comes out in his war-time writing:
“It is hot, 85 degrees and very humid. We are bound for an all night search of the sea approaches to Lae, Salamaua and Buna to prevent reinforcement of the Jap forces there under cover of darkness. The navigator plots the tracks ordered, on his charts, sets up the instruments we will require for night navigation and tests again his radio navigational aids. The first course has been set for a reef 140 miles out in the Coral Sea.”
During this time Dad was awarded a Mentioned in Dispatches. The details in the citation are scanty but the family were always told it was for sighting the enemy fleet entering the Coral Sea, prior to the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Surviving many of these sorties without injury, Dad was transferred to Rathmines (near Newcastle) to teach Catalina navigation.
By this time he had been married for a couple of years and Mum was able to join him. She rented a boat shed on the other side of Lake Macquarie and, with other wives, she was sometimes able to join Dad in the Mess.
Towards the end of the war, Catalinas were becoming scarce in Australia. Dad was chosen to go to the west coast of the USA, pick up a Catalina and navigate it back to Australia.
Many of the pre-war refuelling stops were occupied by the enemy, so setting a route that would get them safely home was not easy. But that’s what he and other RAAF navigators did.
At this time the war in the Pacific was drawing to a close. Dad was sent to Washington for the last 18 months of his service, where he acted as RAAF Headquarters Navigation Representative. Among other tasks, he worked on the redesign of the Navigator’s Tables in Catalina and Lancaster aircraft.
Dad was proud of his RAAF service, and continued an interest in navigation for the rest of his life, being a foundation member of the Institute of Navigation in Australia.
He wrote his own death notice and it started “John Moline, Navigator”. This is what the RAAF gave him in return for his service.